Culture just a hop across the border

Bumbershoot festival serves up an annual weekend of culture unlike anything in Vancouver.

Seattle's Champagne Champagne is making waves with the group's ability to wow live. ( Jeff Groat / The Runner)

By Melissa Fraser

Bumbershoot: Seattle’s premier culture festival takes place every Labour Day weekend in the city’s centre – an inexpensive way to enjoy tons of music, dance and comedy acts; something that is actually fun and cool to do in the city. Something Vancouver is missing.

This past weekend hordes of Seattleites and a slew of their neighbours met under the space needle to share a weekend of culture. The festival hosted over 100 bands on seven stages and had a full schedule of comedy, panel discussions and talks, performance arts and film. Of course, the music ranged from jazz to country and from rap to that music that can’t be labeled. The performance and visual artists were a well-chosen, eclectic group.

The days were full of musical and comedy acts, and if someone found themselves with spare time between shows there were beer gardens and patches of grass to be enjoyed. Like the 40 years before, it was a peaceful weekend meant for anyone and everyone to enjoy.

In it’s 41st year, Bumbershoot knows a thing or two about getting groups of completely different people to spend a little time together for a culturally educational experience (at just US $90 for the weekend).

The festival was worth drive to Seattle, but it raised questions about why we had to make the trek for this experience. We’ve seen Vancouver try it with the Folk Fest, the Jazz Festival and most recently Vancouver’s 125th birthday. And while they all have their own positives they aren’t like Bumbershoot. The Folk Fest can alienate a large portion of Vancouver that can’t afford $150 per person and the Jazz Festival doesn’t have the same variety of cultural experience. The success of Vancouver’s 125th birthday was a great example of how people in Vancouver are interested in these types of events.

There needs to be a venue, at least once a year, where people in the Lower Mainland are comfortable spending time with each other while getting to know about the artists in our community.

Notable Acts

Caleb Klauder Country Band
This good ol’ honky tonkin’ country band sounded like they were playin’ a ho down in a smokey barn all hopped up on whisky and chewin’ tobacco. Songs about sunshine, pretty girls and worn out shoes were far from the binge drinking messages of popular country. The audience couldn’t help but at least tap a foot along to the tune.

Champagne Champagne
If you haven’t seen 50-year-old women in Birkenstocks grooving to rap music in under the afternoon sun, then you haven’t seen the best an urban festival can offer. This rap duo from Seattle had everyone in the crowd nodding their heads, arms in the air by the time they brought out “Starfucker” that no one seemed to notice the title.

Vusi Mahlasela
With a voice that sounds like he’s calling out for something barely reachable, Vusi Mahlasela’s protest songs are inspiring and beautiful. Out of South Africa, he’s been part of the apartheid struggle and the current strife in a country so different from our own. Mahlasela makes South African folk music accessible and educational. And he can speak really, really fast.

Kore Ionz
This reggae outfit from Seattle were perfectly suited for an afternoon show. As people lay listlessly in the unrelenting heat, the music took us to a more relaxed more “Caribbean” place. The smell of pot wafting through the air and the old hippies swaying in the grass really fit the spirit of the band.

The Jim Jones Revue
Getting to the performance was like walking into a Hell’s Angels church service. The audience was bombarded with rockabilly guitar, piercing piano and raspy male vocals singing, I mean yelling, about “motherfuckers.” It was beautiful music for a biker’s wedding.

Quadron's sultry vocals and electronic beats chilled out the overheating crowd. (Jeff Groat / The Runner)

The Horde and the Harem
Such a big sound from a young folk group in plaid and paisley. The horn section and the lead singer’s robust voice offered a rich, full sound, which is sometimes lacking in folk music. Out of Seattle, the band specializes in West Coast, nature-inspired songs full of harmonies and piano riffs.

Quadron is made up of bleak, Scandinavian electro pop layered with soulful bass lines and lead by beautiful jazz vocals. If you stood by someone smoking a cigarette and shut your eyes you couldn’t help but imagine you were in the middle of a small nightclub in Denmark: blinking coloured lights, silver sparkles on the floor and copious amounts of vodka.


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